Discogenic pain is the neck or lower back pain that usually comes from intervertebral discs. There are many ways in which the discs may be damaged. In addition, they start degenerating over a lifespan. However, these conditions don’t always cause painful sensations. Therefore, proper diagnostics is essential to identify the cause of back pain and assign treatment.
Discogenic pain diagnostics
Generally, it is challenging to determine what exactly causes back pain. The similarity of symptoms for various conditions makes it even harder. Nevertheless, identification of the source of the discomfort determines the type of treatment the patient will receive. To diagnose discogenic pain, the doctor may recommend the following tests:
- Radiography. It is an imaging technique that involves the usage of X-rays, gamma rays, ionizing or non-ionizing radiation to observe inside the body.
- MRI. It is an imaging technique that uses computer-generated radio waves and the magnetic field to produce detailed images of the human body’s organs and tissues. However, this method of diagnostics isn’t always accurate in identifying the cause of discogenic pain.
- Discography. It is an imaging technique that involves injecting a contrast dye into the intervertebral disc. The doctor makes X-rays or the computerized tomography (CT) scan to observe where the dye spreads. This procedure helps evaluate back pain and determine whether an abnormality in the intervertebral disc is the cause of the pain. Notably, some researchers identified that discography might give erroneous positive results due to its subjectivity. It is usually the case when the patient suffers from pain caused by another source, has mental abnormalities, or fears pain. Because of it, guidelines were developed to minimize errors in the results.
Discogenic pain treatment
Sometimes discogenic pain fades over time or is intermittent. Nevertheless, in some cases, proper management is essential to deal with this condition. The treatment of discogenic pain may involve medications, physical therapy, injections or surgery.
- Medications. The doctor may suggest anti-inflammatory drugs to control the pain.
- Physical therapy. This method of discogenic pain treatment may involve light back exercises, traction or other manipulations with the assistance of a healthcare provider.
- Injections. It usually involves injecting medications containing a local anaesthetic and an anti-inflammatory steroid in some cases. This method helps reduce the pain and the swelling of the intervertebral disc.
- Surgery. The doctor recommends this treatment method if others were not successful in managing discogenic pain. The most commonly used option is a discectomy. It is the removal of the part of the disc that damages the nerve, muscle, or other parts of the back. Nowadays, the surgeon can perform this procedure with minimal invasiveness and a short recovery period. However, sometimes there is a necessity to remove the whole disc. In this case, the implant is inserted.